Posted: 10:54 am Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Medlen mentally prepared for 2nd major elbow surgery 

By David O'Brien

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Braves pitcher Kris Medlen spent the past few days coming to grips with the reality that he’s almost certainly going to need Tommy John surgery for the second time in five years, after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow in a game Sunday.

“Mentally preparing myself,” Medlen said Wednesday. “It’s something that I’ve felt before. I think I had all the answers to anybody’s questions in my head when I was walking off the mound. I never do that. When I did it before in 2010, the same thing kind of happened. Nothing’s … ” (Here there was a long pause, as he fought back emotions.) “Nothing’s official, but I think I know and just go from there.”

Medlen has already undergone an MRI exam and other tests that indicate the ligament damage, and he expects to have Tommy John surgery and go through another lengthy rehabilitation process, which he believes will at least be a little easier now that he has a wife and 1-year-old son to help keep him occupied through the grind. The typical 12-month rehab can take a little longer after a second Tommy  John surgery.

Medlen will see Dr. James Andrews in the next few days before making a final decision about surgery. Andrews and other orthopedic surgeons have been at a convention in New Orleans that runs through the weekend.

He would join fellow Braves pitcher Jonny Venters in trying to be among the few pitchers to ever come back from two “TJ” surgeries and perform at a high level again in the majors. Andrews has previously placed the success rate at about 20 percent for pitchers to return to pre-surgery form after a second Tommy John surgery, and the percentage has been much better for relievers than for starters.

“I just told him everyone’s here for you,” Venters said in the Braves clubhouse. “Just stay positive, make the best decision for you and your family. I think he’ll be fine. Obviously you don’t want to see something like that. But I just told him he’ll be OK, make a decision and go at it as hard as you can.”

Medlen, 28, paused several times and put his head down as he discussed the situation with reporters Wednesday morning at Champion Stadium, three days after he left a game against the Mets clutching his right elbow in pain. He said he actually felt the injury on a curveball he threw to Curtis Granderson on a ground out, but stayed in the game and threw two more pitches to Matt Clark, and felt searing pain after each, before hopping off the mound and heading to the dugout with the count 1-1.

He said cursed to himself after the Granderson pitch, almost in disbelief that he had probably torn the ligament again, like he did in 2010.

“It was more of a denial/frustration/anger thing,” Medlen said. “I was already losing it on the way to the dugout. I couldn’t breathe. Just all that stuff … going through it one time, I told myself if I ever had to do it again I would quit. Stupid comments like that. I’m not going to quit, obviously. But the first  time I did it in 2010, I was telling myself there was no way I could will myself to do all this crap again.”

Braves general manager Frank Wren sat next to Medlen when the pitcher spoke with reporters, and put a hand on his shoulder at one point when Medlen nearly broke down.

“From his perspective, he probably knew when he walked off the mound, based on how he felt,” Wren said. “And over the last couple of days he’s had additional tests. Yesterday he had a stress X-ray, and that stress X-ray, it’s not definitive, but it did probably confirm what he was fearing. That there’s a high likelihood that he’s going to have to have a second Tommy John.

“And so that put him in a position where he wanted to come to you guys and be open and honest with where we are. It’s nothing official. It’s not definite yet. But I think over the next few days when he sees the doctor, that’s what we’re anticipating.”

The Braves are likely to lose one of their most popular team members for the entire season, and the pitcher they had planned to have start on opening day. They moved quickly to bolster their injury-plagued rotation by signing free agent Ervin Santana, an announcement that was made Wednesday morning in the pressbox at Champion Stadium about one hour before Medlen met with reporters in the dugout.

“It’s awful,” Braves second baseman Dan Uggla said of Medlen’s injury. “To have that happen once sucks bad enough, then to have it happen again as soon as it did … it just sucks. There’s no other way to say it. In here as a clubhouse, you’ve got your guys and you’re counting on leaning on these guys. Med is our ace; that’s our horse. When he goes down, that’s a big, big loss, man. The morale of the team is like, ‘Oh, my gosh, what’s going to happen now?’ To see the front office step up like they did and get Santana is a huge pick-me-up.

“We all love Medlen so much, and believe me, with the signing of Santana we haven’t forgotten anything that’s going on with Medlen. We’re all hurting for him.”

Medlen is 24-12 with a 2.47 ERA in 44 games (43 starts) since moving from the bullpen to the starting rotation at the end of July 2012. His 2.40 ERA since the 2012 All-Star break is the second-best among major league pitchers with at least 250 innings, behind only Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

Medlen has won three of the past eight NL Pitcher of the Month awards, while no other pitcher in either league has won more than one such award during that period.

“My teammates have been extremely supportive,” Medlen said. “It definitely makes you feel better. But the reality has set in the past couple of days, and it’s more like, all right, let’s go, let’s get this taken care of. It’s not like a woe is me, or why me? I don’t even think like that. I wouldn’t be at this level if I ever thought that way.

“I feel like I carry the flag for the underdogs and the people who believe in themselves when no one else does. I’ve had a good support system coming up, and those are the people that I play for. I just want to do it for them.”

31 comments
BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

As bad as this is for Medlen it opens up the Door for guy's like Wood and Hale........Wood is a lock for a starter position and let's hope Hale is as or nearly as good as his last 2 starts last season.........then hope for Minor to start pitching soon. 

DrPhill
DrPhill

Medlen's personality added something to the dugout, to say nothing of his pitching ability.  He is a major loss to the Braves on both counts.  The human arm is just not designed to throw baseballs, for very long anyway.  I hope that Chris recovers and returns to form. He will be missed.

Meritorious-Soso
Meritorious-Soso

Nats fan here. Nats fans still fear Braves as, frankly, favorite to win the East, the way you slaughtered Nats head-to-head last year. Nats have to beat the Braves first to even think about advancing. But tough breaks on your two pitchers. WaPost's great elder statesman Tom Boswell has piece on how all fans watch spring training games holding breath, because this is when pitchers suffer the most injuries ... and since Stephen Strasberg went through Tommy John the same year Medlen did, oh boy, we're nervous

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

We got ourselves a 9-10 pitcher from KC. Sounds like a perfect fit for the team we're going to have this year!

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Guys, get a life. We KNEW this was Tommy John the day it happened. HE knew - and that's why WE knew. Frank Wren did NOthing in the offseason other than cut loose our most respected veterans. Everybody take a breath - this is a third place roster in our division. Go to the baseball games because you like baseball.

We still have Uggla and BJ. You knew this team wasn't anything special. And now you are really certain of it. Enjoy the summer and if you don't like mediocrity find something else to do!

mrarlington
mrarlington

Braves are done. Nat's are poised to take advantage of the weakened Brave's roster. The Braves will have three-fifths of their projected starting rotation on the disabled list on Opening Day.

MIBravesFan
MIBravesFan

I feel awful for Kris. I'm glad that he was his wife and son to be there for him this time around, and brighten the days when things will be tough. He's a mentally tough dude - you see that in how he pitches. He can and will get through this.

ChessMaster
ChessMaster

People kept complaining that the Braves needed to trade for a true number 1 pitcher, but I believed Medlen was the real deal. I still do but I have to add the caveat that when he is healthy, he's a number 1. His injury is devastating to him personally and I hope he is able to pull strength from his friends and god and come back. If anyone is able to come back from this, I believe he can.

The Braves will move on with their season. They have to. I like the signing of Santana and I applaud Wren for this swift action. This bolsters the starting rotation, which we need. Now we need Beachy and Minor to bounce back and join Teheran, Garcia, and Wood to give us the rotation we need.

reallygroovy
reallygroovy

MEDLEN REMMBER YOU ARE A BULLDOG REHAB IS HARD I BROKE MY NECK BEFORE SO I KNOW HOW HARD IT IS TOU ARE YOUNG AND IN 15 MONTHS OR BY THE ALL STAR BREAK NEXT YEAR YOU WILL BE BACK AND AS A FAN I WILL PAY TO SEE YOU PITCH LIKE I HAVE BEFORE

redneckbluedog
redneckbluedog

Medley is done. It's just the way it goes. Better go get a good starter..!!!!

Brian Eatz
Brian Eatz

Tough deal for Kris....can Dave O'Brien pitch?  Another Frank Wren dumpster fire should ignite late September...

patriotdog
patriotdog

Been the best young pitcher in the system for years. 2.47 era since becoming a starter. He could drop off a good bit and still be better than a lot of starters.

Go Get 'em, Kris!

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Sad for Kris, probably my favorite pitcher.  He never makes excuses and is always a stand up guy with a great sense of humor.


Dr Andrews may be the best of the best, but I'm thinking if I was Kris, I might want to consider someone else this time.  A nephew of mine just had a hernia bust out again after having it "fixed" two years ago, he was going back to the same surgeon, I said he didn't do so well the first time, hadn't you better think about alternatives.  Seems Andrews has had a lot of failures lately, maybe time for a second opinion. 

Iluvnutella
Iluvnutella

Aint the end of the world........He'll b back. Go Braves!

MR1961
MR1961

Hey WildWillie32, the Braves, Falcons, Bulldogs and Hawks all had the most devastating injury prone season ever this past year. And the Braves had it last year before there was any talk of moving to Cobb. 


None of these teams had any connection with your idiotic "Cobb County Curse"

JROLL1
JROLL1

I hate this for Kris. A really good kid!

BravesGirl
BravesGirl

So sorry to hear about Medlin.  What a great guy and a bad loss for the Braves this year.  No worries, you will be back to pitch opening day next year!

And, BTW - Since when did Uggla become the spokesperson for the players.  Shouldn't he be at batting practice?

richbrave
richbrave

VENTERS in the 'pen may add up to a successful reprise. More reliefers are successful than starters.


But I'm very sanguine of MEDLEN being effective a second time around. And i don't think BEACHY will hold up either.


However,  LUCAS SIMS will be available for the 2015 season, and possibly DAVID HALE by then also. So we might get two steady starters to replace the Beach-master and Meds by then.

Fanof54
Fanof54

If "20 percent for pitchers to return to pre-surgery form after a second Tommy John surgery" is a legit stat, then I expect it to jump to 22% in a year's time, because Kris will be back and he will be successful.  

Da_Mick
Da_Mick

What can you say....it's the worst luck for a great guy, and one of our absolutely best players.  Who knows what will come of this in the long run, but I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Kris pitch from the first time he got on a major league mound.  These are obviously extremely difficult hours for him, but if it helps any, he has a huge base of supporters who are pulling for him.

This season's kind of tainted already, isn't it? 

oldetownevet
oldetownevet

Hoping Kris will still be able to hang around the clubhouse during his rehab--he'll continue to be such a positive influence for the team even if he's not able to pitch this year!!

RonMexico
RonMexico

Devastating. What an absolute shame.

58Supersports
58Supersports

Hate to hear that........good luck and get well soon.

LEE3333
LEE3333

@TreeRollins Which will be ten times the team the Hawks field in any given season.

mrarlington
mrarlington

@TreeRollins I remember last year the same people praising the BJ Upton signing who are now praising the Santana signing. We all know how that worked out. You sound like one of the few who think with their head.

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

This was obvious the entire offseason when we decided to stand pat. BJ and Uggla mark the 3 year upcoming death of this team due to the dead money!

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Dude, we have homeless people unlike this millionaire and you feel sorry for THIS guy. You need a life.

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

By Sept we will be long gone from this race!

LEE3333
LEE3333

@WildWillie32 Cobb County is the best thing to happen to this team since their move to Atlanta.